Is Your Relationship Strong Enough to Handle a Home Remodeling Project?

A little more than half — 53% — of homeowners agree that now is a good time to renovate a home, a fact that is reflected by the boom experienced by the U.S. home remodeling industry in recent years. However, although now may be a good time to renovate your home, is it worth ruining your relationship?

While renovating a home may seem like a great opportunity for a couple to bond, it can easily turn into a nightmare. A simple trip to a furniture or home improvement store can get ugly, and fast.

In fact, the newly named “IKEA meltdown” is a actually a real thing and can spell trouble for couples who may already be experiencing relationship stress, according to a new report published in the Wall Street Journal. Those couples may enter the store hand-in-hand feeling hopeful, but may leave angry, drained, and tearful.

In couple’s therapy, it’s common for couples to discuss fighting while home improvement shopping or while assembling furniture, said clinical psychologist Ramani Durvasula. In fact, it’s become so common the Santa Monica, CA-based therapist has now embraced these tasks as communication exercises for her patients.

As the world’s largest furniture retailer boasting over 367 stores in seven countries, IKEA might seem like a domestic wonderland brimming with the latest and greatest home goods — not to mention those meatball. However, it can quickly become a domestic minefield rife with hidden triggers. “The store literally becomes a map of a relationship nightmare,” explains Dr. Durvasula, who is also a professor of psychology at California State University Los Angeles.

Just browsing in an IKEA demo kitchen, for example, can serve as a reminder or spark disagreements over who does most of the cooking and cleaning. Or walking through the children’s section can lead to a heated discussion over when is the right time to start a family. The next thing you know, you’re in the throes of a full blown “IKEA meltdown.”

Based in Almhult, Sweden, IKEA understands that the entire home improvement process can be emotionally taxing and may lead to arguments, says Janice Simonsen, design spokeswoman for IKEA U.S. “While IKEA has no set philosophy on couples shopping together, we want everyone to have a good experience,” she explains.

While IKEA doesn’t have counselors or mediators on standby for couples, they do have home-furnishing consultants at roughly 85% of their U.S. stores who can provide design advice. After working as an IKEA furnishings consultant, Simonsen compiled a list of guidelines for couples to help them prepared for an IKEA visit.

Couples with existing communication issues are most likely to experience an “IKEA meltdown,” but no relationship is entirely immune. A 2013 survey conducted by home design site Houzz revealed that 46% of couples tackling remodeling projects together considered the experience frustrating, while 12% of couples surveyed admitted to considering separation or divorce during the remodeling process.

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